Flavourings and Sweeteners - Page 1

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Flavourings are added to food to enhance its flavour. While their impact may be great, they are subsidiary to the food itself. They take the form both of things cooked with food, and those added to food once cooking is completed. The concept of flavourings is broadly construed to include condiments, stocks, vinegars, oils, fats and sweeteners. Chocolate, not intrinsically sweet, is sweetened to varing extents. Essences extracted and distilled from plants flavour sweet foods without upsetting the balance of liquid or bulk of a recipe.

A condiment is understood as a strongly flavoured savoury accompaniment to food, used at the table. Such flavourings are also used as seasonings in the kitchen.

Salty and sour flavours are derived from 'simple' salts and acidic fruit juices, and from complex fermented products, such as fish sauce, soy sauce and vinegar. These are often combined with spices and herbs to make mustards, pickles, chutneys and sauces.

Stocks and fats, as well as being cooking media, impart flavour and, in the case of oils, are used to season.

Sweeteners give food and drink a sweet taste. Sweetness occurs naturally in many forms; pre eminent among them is sugar.

A simple carbohydrate, sugar itself takes several forms. Three sugars are of culinary importance:

  1. dextrose, commonly called glucose, is a monosaccharide (single sugar) present in plants and animal blood.

  2. fructose, also called laevulose or levulose, is a monosaccharide occuring in plants and honey.

  3. sucrose is a disaccharide (double sugar) composed of glucose and fructose.

Table sugar, 'ordinary' white sugar, is nearly pure sucrose. In a culinary context, the term 'sugar' denotes sucrose.

A diversity of plants is exploited for their sugars. One of the earliest sources of sugar was honey, processed by bees from the nectar of plants. The saps of trees, notably maple and palm, also yield sugars. Nowadays, sugar cane and sugar beet are the principal sources of sugar.

Sugars do not taste equally sweet. Fructose is one and three-quarter times as sweet as sucrose while glucose is three-quarter as sweet as sucrose, despite all having the same food value. Pure sugars merely taste sweet. Sugars with 'impurities', that is, anything other than sugar, also have nuances of flavour from the particular impurities.

As well as sweeten, sugar in high concentrations acts as a preservative. It is vital, in both roles, in jams, jellies and conserves.

Flavourings are not necessarily consistent, and shoud be used judiciously.

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